Living in Almaty

I wanted to reply to the question of the cost of living here in Kazakhstan.  I live in Almaty and this is my fourth visit here but first time living beyond a summer.  It is expensive and getting more so daily.

Cost of housing can vary but expect to pay $800 or more for a two room place.  (All prices in USD or tenge)

Cost of transportation, buses, trams and trolleys are now 50 tenge.

Cost of taking "local" taxis, at least 300 tenge and up to 500 tenge or more after 7pm.

Food: Eating out at a typical fast food place will cost 600-1000 tenge for a burger, fries and coke.  At a nice place expect the tab to run over 5000 tenge for two people and that would be for two main dishes, one shared salad, bread and beverages.

Buying food will depend on where you shop, Ramstor tends to be expensive, Groc is better on costs and bazaars are your best bet for cheaper produce and dry goods.  Basics for a week, bread, milk, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, fruit and chicken can round around 4000 to 6000 tenge depending on where you buy them.

Personally I am finding that I can live on about $100 per week not including rent and utilities. 

Utilities (gas, water, electric and such) runs around $80 per month. 

Internet connection is with Megaline and not always dependable but it runs 5000 tenge per month.

The current exchange rate has been fluctuating between 119.5 to 120 at this time.

Overall I find living here to be on par with living back home in California.  I save some money since I don't have a car here and don't have to pay car insurance either. 

Medical care is something I can't give any opinion on since I have not had an occassion to have to use it.  I am told that you can find some Western doctors here and that the care is good. 

Language is basically now about 50% Russian and 50% Kazakh and you can find many young people who speak English.

I have been here three times before working on short term projects in the summertime.  The weather at that time was usually very hot but not humid which after the humidity in China having heat sans humidity is preferred.  Summer temps can get to be over 100F but usually stay in the 90's. 

This is my first time being here for the other seasons and all I can say right now is the fall season was short and sweet but what I saw of it was nice.  The winter is proving to be much colder and I am told long, meaning it could last until April.  I am told it will snow here but the worst of it is the ice.  Temps I am told can get in the teens.  Again I am using F not C to quote temps. 

Spring I am told will also be short and sweet but nice, I am looking forward to it.

This is a great place overall and the country is changing rapidly but there are still overt signs of Soviet influence all over the place which adds to the charm in my opinion. 

I think I covered all the basics if not feel free to let me know...also just learning how to do things on this site so bear with me. 

Hey mate,
Your info is of immense help. thanks!
I was wondering if Almaty as a city offers domestic help, like maids etc...? Would you know?
Thanks again,

Yes it is easy to find help here and rather inexpensive.

Thanks a ton...I have been offered a job up there and wondering if i should take it up.
Is Almaty clean as a city? it showed up number 7 or 8 on the dirtiest cities in the world..
what do you do there?


I am a business teacher at a university.  I would not call Almaty a clean city by any means.  The smog is worse than what I grew up breathing in Los Angeles, but if you look past the smog and traffic you will find it a beautiful city.  The mountains that surround you are breathtaking for sure.  I have been here 4 times but this time will be the longest stay. 

It is cold in the winter but probably the most beautiful time too, and very hot in the summer but really not humid at all.  Remember that you will be up in altitude so that needs to be considered.  It is 3,000 ft or 1,000 meters up so the air is dry and you need to remember to drink alot of water.

Okay, hope you will consider it.  What kind of job?  There are many expats around here and I'm sure you'll find Central Asian hospitality to your liking as it is the best part of this place.

Hi Lrai (Is that your name?),

The job I am offered is in advertising. I have worked in different countries, mostly 3rd world, so not new to the smog, do you think it would beat Bombay? I was just wondering how the city is, since the pictures are very deceptive; from the pictures on the net, the city hardly seems to be polluted at all.

Since you teach business, can you comment on the present state of the market. I mean, if you look at the Eastern Europe, even though they can be economically considered 3rd world, they mostly still live and behave like any other European country would. What would you say about KZ?

Are you there with family?


I work mostly as a business consultant but I like to also teach.  Working abroad I've taught English but my real passion is teaching business courses.

I have been in business and have had my own companies for over 25 years.  Yes, lrai is my name, but I don't like to give out too much info if you can understand that.

Yes, photos of Almaty can be a little deceptive, however there are some great clear and smogless days here, about 3 per year, LOL.  Probably more but I think you can get my drift.  The mountains however are amazing and if you are into hiking, skiing or other winter things this is the place.

Almaty is very European in feel more than Central Asian, but it is still very Central Asia in many other ways.  I personally love all the "random" stuff that happens here on a daily basis really.  You can never be sure of anything, like if a bus you are riding is actually going to take the same route or suddenly change routes just because. 

If there is such a thing as 2nd world, then Almaty fits that description.  It isn't totally 3rd world anymore, many new projects have been built and the city is in great transition.  I have watched this now for 4 years and find it amazing to see the old changing into the new.  However if there is such a things as 2nd world then Almaty fits because it has one foot in the 3rd world and the other is placed precariously in the 1st world. 

Everyone currently is using the word "crisis" to explain the economy but I prefer to say that it is adjusting.  Here's the thing, Almaty and Kazakhstan in general have been speeding into the modern world and with that type of change prices here have been extremely high.  I pay as much rent here for a 2 bedroom flat as I do back in the States.  Now 4 years ago this same flat would have run about $400 but today it is costing $850.  Recent event are causing prices to finally adjust to where they should be.  Inflation here had been rising prices every month but finally it is slowing down and getting in line with reality.  Housing prices here were on par with anything in California real estate which in my opinion was obscene.  So, now at least they are adjusting to be where it is more realistic.

Four years ago I could take a bus here for 20 tenge, which at that time was about 14 cents US, today the price has gone up to 50 tenge, about 42 cents US.  That's a 33% increase in just 4 years, which in my opinion is outrageous.  It is only one example of how prices have been rising in just the 4 years that I've been coming here.

Okay, hope that helps, by the way is Cairo your latest gig, or are you from there?  Just wondering.  What do you do in Advertising?  I'm currently working on a tourism project as that is my area of expertise along with Marketing.  Hope this helps you decide, if you do come to Almaty I think you will find it inviting.  It's been that way for me which is why I keep coming back.

hi mate,

decided on moving to almaty around april :-)
waiting for my paperwork now...

Great and best of luck to you.  Prices here continue to rise, the latest exchange (USD)was almost 124 to 1.  When I got here in August 2008 it was 118 to 1 so you can see that inflation has hit here.  Be sure to bring new currency with you for exchanging, they won't take old or old looking bills to exchange.  The pound is still much better than the dollar as is the Euro, so if you have either of those you will do even better.  Take care and by April it should be warmer too.  One more thing if you plan to stay a while, pack a good winter coat, and shoes plus get a pair of the ice spike things that attach to your winter boots, I wish I had done that sooner.  Later, lrai

Just an update on the exchange rate, just this week the government in KZ decided to let the rate float.  On Wednesday the rate USD to tenge went crazy.  At one point in about 4 hours the rate went from 125 to over 180 to 1.  It has since then settled back down but it is now hovering around 145 to 1. 

If you are thinking of coming to KZ anytime soon USD is stronger than it had been but also realize that prices in tenge are rising fast.  It is still not going to be cheap to live here.

Hi there, im from Almaty. I was born in Kazakhstan. So how are you?:)

I'm fine and welcome to this site.  I hope all I've posted meets with your approval since I'm posting about your country.  Okay thanks for the note and look forward to seeing some of your insights.  LRai

Hello folks,
This kind of goes along with the pollution/smog question, but it's a huge consideration for me. I might have a fellowship to go to Almaty starting this summer, and as someone who's prone to sinus infections and seasonal allergies, I'm really concerned about the pollution levels in the city. I am originally from Russia, and when I went to Ekaterinburg recently I was sneezing constantly and felt like I was going to die. If the entire winter is like that in Almaty, I might just have to pass.

So my question is, are there a lot of miserable allergy sufferers there being taken down by the smog? Or is it more that there is pollution, but it's not bad enough to make one want to don a surgical mask?

Thanks so much for all your input! I found another blog online that called Almaty one big gas chamber, and needless to say it scared me. Also, I've been told by Kazakhs that teh problem is that Almaty sits in a ravine between mountains and the winds can't clear out the smog properly?

Okay the smog is bad...but I grew up in LA so I can't really say it's any worse than LA smog.  In the winter I haven't noticed smog but there is smoke from coal burning stoves.  It's worse in the City Center area but if you choose to live closer to the mountains it's much better.  In the summer the heat and smog is pretty bad.  If you won't be here for summer and only for winter you can probably survive it.  I have to admit that my sinus problem have been better here than when I lived in South China.  As for depends on what you are allergic to, but I've found that my allergies are most affected by pollens and not really by smog.  Okay not sure that helps...I suggest you may want to come and spend 10 days here and see if you can deal with it.

Hi there,

I am moving to Almaty in May and have found all the information on this forum really helpful.
I was there in March and didn't find the pollution so bad, but maybe summer is a lot worse.

Anyway, one of my concerns is driving. I have lived in the UK most of my life, but now live in Estonia so driving on the right side of the road is not an issue. However I saw that drivers are quite aggressive, even by UK standards, and that is a concern to me. Should I be concerned?

Also, I would like to travel around the country and region whilst I am living there. How easy is it to get around? I guess driving is not an option with distances so large? Is flying the only option? I ask because I have some concerns again (maybe without any real justification) about flying internally and to the neighbouring countries! I guess safety is my main concern here!

Finally, are there many English speaking expats in Almaty? I seem to get mixed messages on that one. I ask because I have found that as great as it is to have local friends (which I hope to make through work), knowing someone in the same situation as you is always helpful especially if you are living on your own. Feel free to get in touch if anyone is in the same situation as me!

UK Expat:

Okay driving in Almaty is crazy and you need to be an aggressive driver for sure.  Also if you get a car here you'll have a yellow license plate which is a sure tip off that you are a foreigner so be prepared to be stopped by the local police alot.  You just need to get used to it and be prepared to pay the bribes.

I personally don't have a car and see no need to have one here.  The local transporation; buses, trams, trolleys and the ever present taxis get me around town just fine and much cheaper than having a car.

As for travel in country don't be concerned by it.  Air Astana flies often and fairly cheap, they have a good record as far as I can tell.  There are trains to just about everywhere, and buses to take you short distances or long.  One thing to remember on trains or buses is to watch your stuff.  As far as travel to other neighboring countries be aware of the political situation in that country and be aware of the visa requirements. 

If you speak the language well then travel on your own shouldn't be a problem, however if not you probably shouldn't go alone.  Hope that helps you.


You'll need to unblock me before I can sent you a PM.


Hi everyone!

I am moving to Almaty in mid August and have to plan ahead reg the prices and cost of living...
I am moving with my wife and 6 month old baby :)
therefore just a "single man type" living is not for us!

can someone please give me an approximate quote for 2 bedroom appartment not far from a city center?

I am also planning to buy a car, as my job requres a lot of travel throught the regions - and I am realy concerned regarding the ugly bribed police and how to deal with them.

many thanks everybody!!!!


hi there,
cost of living here is very expensive compared to many other cities.
you need to consider paying between 3 to 4,000$ per month for a two/three rooms flat.



I think you'll be able to get a decent 3 room apartment in the center of the city for about US$ 2,000/month. Even in a new building. If you're paying more, it's either because the apartment is extremely fancy (probably much more than in your own country) or you're getting fleeced.

Your name and location implies that you're from Georgia.  If so, you probably speak at least some Russian.  So, I recommend that you try out, which is a popular real estate site (they also publish a newspaper in Russian called "Krysha", which means the "roof" for non-Russian speakers).

Good luck!

Thanks for the information about Kazakhstan. I am planning to move to Almaty in the coming year. Being 43 years of age my main concern is the health care in Kazakhstan. I have read that the medical care in Kazakhstan in general is somewhere in the middle and that most of it is from the soviet union but has been inadequately funded and  that there is a long waiting to get a doctor or  a dentist. Having been travelling globally for the past decade i have used some private insurance such as; pacific prime and Expat Medical. Have to used any of these? or have you plan to use the kazakhstan sysytem? Also i am not sure how it works for you to  be there working but i guess you are not a citizen. If you have the time can you let me know if you are aware of how it works there if you need to see a doctor or a dantist? Thanks, Boris Vasilievich


I was wondering if you could give me some guidance.

Are there any US Banks in Almaty? Is there any way to safely transfer money from Almaty to the US (besides the Western Union)? Thank you so much for your time.

Citi is the only on US bank in Almaty but they only provide corporate banking services and dont work with individuals. However, its not a problem at all to wire money from Kazakhstan anywhere in the world and there is a couple of international retail banks there, namely HSBC and RBS. You can find addresses for all local and international retail banks in Kazakhstan on but its in Russian only.

I am considering an offer to work in Almaty and need to move with family. 
Thanks Irai. The conversation above really helped me to know more about Almaty.

Just wondering - how safe is using permanent housekeeper/ househelp in Almaty and cost for the same in Almaty.

Any feedback will be most appreciated. Thanks in advance

Hi everyone

I'm native citizen of Almaty and willing to provide any help information to foreigners, either who are planing to move or have worked at this city already.

Feel free to contact me, as long as I have free time, I'll answer for your request without fail.   

By this post I can tell: just be aware of renting an accommodation. There are so many ads in the local newspapers and web sites posted by agents, who request some fees for their "work".

Hi Everyone,

I'll be reaching Almaty this Sunday morning. Any advice on taking taxi/public transport from airport to the city centre? I'm not staying in hotel, but I'll be going to an apartment on my own. Any advice will be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

There is a second hand market in Almaty, see a  map. This market is quite odd, If you want to get some "extreme" feelings you should visit this market. I've been there once, my friend browsed a proper cast iron pot for cooking "Lagman" in order to send it to his relatives from Russia. A lot of old things from the past soviet union period are selling there.


I want a job in Kazakstan!   :)

Help me please.

Hey folks,

Thanks a lot for the useful info about Kazakhstan. I have been offered a job in Almaty and am making my mind. My utmost concern is to see whether my husband who is a medical doctor can practice medicine there or does he have to go through the process of having his license approved?

Any tip will be highly appreciated.

hello everyone. LOOKING for a FLAT or Rooms.
i plan going to almaty for private resons, and looking for a flat or even share rooms, i wil stay in almaty at least 2 weeks. so for me much better to shared a flat with... ???  if anyone knows or could able to give a tipps for me where i can find a good place to stay in almaty. i know the city as well. i had been living there for many years, than eventually my job was finished, so i left.  now i would glad to visit again even if it short.
please, contact me as soon as possible, will look forward for positive news.
i will be travelling from june 15 to june 25 in almaty.
sencirely, Jenny

Hi tjen,

you should try posting in the Kazakhstan classifieds

Almaty is not so expensive..
Lets say the prices so so...

Hi everyone,

Considering to move to Almaty soon, with family, I obviously have thousands of questions.
I start then with a few:
I saw many different quotes for housing, but couldn't find the rental price for a house, 4 BR, and small garden, close to International school.
Is this available?
I also wonder is there a large French speakers community in Almaty?
What about doctors, International clinics...Hope I won't need it but just in case.
Thanks a lot.

Kam :

Just for fun, there is a second hand market at Almaty, see the map. This market may seems quite awful, so If you want to get some "extreme" feelings or to buy some old soviet's union stuff, you can visit it :)

I've been there on previous December, my friend browsed a proper cast iron pot for cooking "Lagman" to send it to his relatives in Russia.

Hello Kam,
Did you know that you can also publish your photos here in Kawakhstan's photo album?

FeeAcer :

Hello Kam,
Did you know that you can also publish your photos here in Kawakhstan's photo album?

Next time I have some photos will post them there, thanks


I am an Indian by nationality. My mother is interviewing with a school in Almaty for the post of a teacher (English). She has been offered $1200 per month as the salary. If she gets the offer, and accepts it only she would move to Almaty. She is also getting accommodation at the school's expense.

Could you give some idea if this salary would be enough to go by the daily expenses (food etc..)and also save some part of it?

She has lived in Moscow before for a year in 2010. Not sure how expensive the place is. Please provide your thoughts.



salary will be spent for: 1) food (around 300-350 USD a month) 2) transportation by a taxi (about 100-200 USD/ month)  3) some clothes, cosmetics (150 USD) 4) fun (150-200 USD).

Half of the salary could be kept.


Can any one please tell me the cost of living in almaty, kazkistan for family two person.
I want to know about
House rent, water and electricity, food, transportation, broadband Internet  etc
And also suggest how much should I expect salary.
I am planning for next month.
Please help me.


hi m considering to take an assignment in Almaty.... is there any concept of shared accommodation available... please advice

Saharan, actually an option of shared accommodation is not common on the local market, you have to find a person with whom you would live at first.

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